A mass exodus has ensued after the Scottish Government ordered students to stay put and avoid social gatherings.
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Hundreds of students have fled university campuses to return home – breaking strict Government Covid rules.
Many booked flights and trains after the Scottish Government ordered them to stay put and avoid all social gatherings to tackle the spike in Covid cases.
The mass exodus from halls of residences across the country came as remaining students claimed it was like being in prison as university bosses had threatened them with expulsion if they did not comply.
Second-year MA History student James Yucel, 19, returned to his family home in Ipswich, Suffolk on Friday.
He said: “On Thursday night there was just widespread panic as students learned of the new restrictions.
“It was utter chaos with students booking flights, trains and getting packed up. It’s been so poorly handled.
“My flatmate is an international student from the Cayman Isles in the Caribbean who flew into Glasgow and the next day learned all his lectures this year will be held online.
“He wouldn’t have come if he knew. Like a lot of my friends, I’ve gone home.
“Out of 50 students I am friendly with in Glasgow, 40 of them have ditched Glasgow and headed home.
“There was a mad rush to the train stations and airports on Friday. The rules are so restrictive, why would anyone want to stay?
“We got an email from the university saying there is a yellow and red card system that basically means if you get caught twice going to the pub you will be expelled.
“Personally, it’s maybe not a good idea for me to speak out about it but I think it’s a scandal. “There are a lot of students like me but who are hesitant about speaking out in fear of what the universities might do.”
Students at the Murano Street Student Village, Glasgow University’s biggest halls of residence, told how they have been told they will be kicked off their courses if they leave.
Spanish, Film and Television student Louise Caie, 20, said: “I’ve been in isolation from the moment I got here, so it’s been quite scary.
“My family stay not far from Edinburgh and I wanted to go home but I couldn’t because we’ve been told that if we leave then we could get kicked out of the university course.
“It feels a bit like a prison. Our kitchen is quite small and I’m sharing with 12 people.
“I think it’s a crazy expectation to ask us not to go outside and get fresh air.
“We’ve also seen the police circulating outside a few times because they want to make sure we don’t break any rules.
“I probably would have gone home if it wasn’t for us being ordered to stay by the uni.
Sports science student Andrew Barrett, 18, is one of eight people who tested positive for coronavirus in his flat of 12 people.
He said: “There was one girl who went home to her parents because she had coronavirus and wanted to isolate at home.
“We’ve been threatened with getting kicked out for going home or leaving the halls. We’re allowed to go for a smoke but that’s it.”
Politics and Sociology student Alice Emlyn Jones, 19, from London, said: “It’s been a bit of a shock. I felt really trapped at the beginning but that’s got a bit better now.
“I know they are trying to keep people safe but I’m not sure what impact this will have on people’s mental health.”
About 1200 students in Scotland are in isolation after breakouts of Covid in Glasgow, Dundee, Abertay, Aberdeen and St Andrews Universities.
Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said: “The SNP have had ages to prepare for students returning but it’s been one calamity after another, with ministers sending out mixed
“Now we’re facing the disastrous prospect of students losing trust in the guidance and fleeing their halls in a chaotic free-for-all, with possibly dire consequences for the spread of Covid.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Make no mistake – this mess is the making of the Scottish Government and this dangerous exodus of students from halls is the result of muddled guidance and Government incompetence.”
Scottish Greens education spokesman Ross Greer added: “This whole episode has been a communications disaster, with both universities and the Government swinging wildly from issuing threats of disciplinary action to messages of support and reassurance on a near-hourly basis.”
Universities Scotland, which represents the nation’s universities, has warned students who socialise with anyone outside of their household risk losing their place at university.
It announced a four-week rent rebate to all students in university residences in recognition of the “difficult circumstances” under which they were living.
A spokesman said: “We would urge our students to abide by the government rules and remain in their residences.”
The row comes as Scotland’s record for daily coronavirus cases was broken again, with 714 more cases confirmed.
The Scottish Government also said that 11.5 per cent of those newly tested have been found to have the virus, the highest proportion since the figure has been made public.
The Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area saw the highest number of new infections, with 270, while NHS Lothian recorded 113 and Lanarkshire reported a further 91 cases.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman denied any extra patrols at Glasgow University student halls but said policing had been put in place to engage with new and returning students.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We appreciate this is a particularly difficult time for students but the quicker we get Covid back under control, the sooner they will be able to enjoy a more normal student life.
“The Scottish Government will very shortly produce clear guidance on the circumstances under which students can return home while restrictions remain in place.”
News – Hundreds of Scots students break Covid-19 rules to flee home